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Dehydrating foods, especially apples, is pretty easy. There is some work involved, and you will need a few inexpensive tools to get started. While there are many ways to dry fruits, this article focuses on how to dehydrate apples using an electric food dehydrator. The Basic Supply list is as follows:
- Electric Food Dehydrator with a temperature control dial
- Five or more apples – 5 pounds of apples reduces to about a #10 can worth of dried apples
- A jar with a tight-fitting lid
- A Storage container for the finished product – more details about this below
Optional equipment and supplies include:
- Lemon juice
- Bowl of water
- Apple peeler and corer
Like I said, it is a short list, and the rewards are so incredibly good. So, here’s how to get going.
Make sure your dehydrator is clean and functioning. A good tip is to use your oven thermometer before you start. Set the dehydrator’s thermostatic dial to 150°F, place the thermometer in the dehydrator and run it for 5-10 minutes and check the temp.
If the dehydrator is in good working order, clean, and ready to use, then it is time to prepare the apples. Wash a manageable number of apples. So long as you use them on the same day, then there is no harm in washing a bunch. I plan on one large apple per tray on my dehydrator. You dryer might hold more or fewer apples per tray. I use an old-fashioned apple peeler, and the job of prepping the apples is quick. If you don’t have an apple peeler, then you can slice the apples using a sharp knife and a cutting board or even a mandolin slicer. Your goal is that the apple slices are of a uniform thickness and preferably about ¼ of an inch thick. This does not have to be perfect, just know that the greater the variance in thickness the longer or shorter the drying time and ultimately there is an impact on the quality of the dried fruit.
Using an Apple Peeler – This process is straightforward. The top and bottom of the apple fit into the holder, and the cutter is positioned. Most cutters are fixed, or spring loaded so that they maintain tension on the apple. Turn the crank. As the apple spins, the cutter removes the peel and slices the apple into rings as the holder cores the apple. What you are left with is a barrel-shaped spring of apple without the core, or it’s peel. If your peeler does not slice the apples into rings, you can do so with a knife.
Using a sharp knife and a cutting board. I use a vegetable peeler on the apples rather than a paring knife. I find that the peeler takes off less of the fruit and is reasonably fast at its’ job. Once the apple is peeled, cut it in half and core it with a paring knife. You can leave the core in if that suits you but remember that apple seeds are slightly toxic.
Place the core side down flat on a cutting board and then slide the apples cross-wise. Again, the goal is slices that are about ¼ of an inch thick and relatively uniform.
Place the apple slices on the drying trays. I do this as I finish slicing each apple to reduce browning.
In short: Peel, Slice, add to the dryer. I work apply-by-apple so that I don’t have a bunch of slices sitting around turning brown.
To reduce browning, some recipes and sites will tell you to soak the apple slices in a mixture of lemon water or give them a dusting of ascorbic acid. My experience has been that this is not necessary, but you may want to experiment on your own to determine whether or not this is a vital step for you.
To make the Lemon water soak, in a bowl add ¼ cup of lemon juice and 1 quart of water. Mix and then add apples. Allow the apples to soak for about 10-15 minutes. Remove, dry, and add to the dehydrator. To dry apples, place the slices on a clean paper towel and gently pat them dry. Don’t over dry the apples before adding them to the dehydrator or you will remove most of the lemon juice.
Experiment and Make this Process your Own
The primary drying time ranges from 6-12 hours, and you will want to check the apples about every hour or so. The apples are done when they are dry to the touch, leather-like, and without any internal moisture. You can dry them longer and make them brittle or can stop when they are the consistency of soft leather.
The dehydration process is simple. You can play around with the end results and find what works best for you. I also dehydrate apples and other fruit in different ways. For example, I might cube the apples rather than make rings so that the end product is more user-friendly in oatmeal or muffins. It is the same process, just a little longer in the dehydrator.
An excellent place to start with the experimentation process is to define how you are going to use the dried apples. If you are looking to add dried fruit to your food security plan, then your process is going to be slightly different than if you are trying to make snacks for lunches. Food that is for immediate use can be a little less dehydrated, and food for long-term use might be a bit more brittle.
Storing your Dehydrated Apples
Always store your dried apples either in glass or in a plastic bag. Never put them directly into a metal can as the acidic nature of the apples can cause a reaction with the metal and that might create an unsafe food situation. Before you store your dried apples for the long-term, you need to check their moisture level. If the slices are not even, the thicker pieces will have more moisture than the thinner slices, and that can cause mold.
To even out the moisture level, allow the apples to cool and pack – loosely, not stuffed – them into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place the sealed jar in your pantry for the next week to ten days. You want to go by and give the jars a shake to redistribute the dried apples. What this does is to allow those dried pieces with more moisture to vaporize the humidity, and the apples that are drier will absorb that extra moisture. After 10 days, the dried apple slices should all be equal in moisture content. If you feel at this point that the apples are still too moist, you can return them to the dehydrator until they are dried to your satisfaction.
If you are storing your apples in a can, jar, or plastic container in your pantry, check them monthly for signs of mold. Moldy apples should be discarded. The shelf life of dehydrated apples can range from 6-months to a year or more stored on your pantry shelf so long as the pantry’s temperature remains around 60 degrees F. Stored food should always be kept in a place with even temperatures and out of direct sunlight. Here, I put the dried apples into a plastic freezer bag and then place that bag into another freezer bag, add a square of paper towel and place the pack in the freezer. Dried fruit stored in your freezer can last upwards of 2-years so long as the moisture in the bags remains low. I do a dried food check usually every two months for foods that have been stored for a while and every month for new additions. I do this as I rotate the food in the freezer so that I am using the oldest foods first. I have a small freezer that is just for dried foods, and I keep it around 50 degrees.
Variation of Dried Apples
Again, these suggestions depend on how you plan to use dried apples. For snacks, you don’t need to add sugar as the dehydrating process concentrates the natural sugars in the apples. Dust the pre-dried apples with spices such as cinnamon or make a blend of apple pie spices and use that as a seasoning. These are perfect in salads, in hot or cold cereal, as snacks, or in baking.
Best Apples for Dehydrating
There are a lot of varieties of apples, but not all of them are the best for drying. Some are better for baking or canning, and still, others are perfect for freezing. For dehydrating, my favorite is the Gravenstein. A close second is the Fuji and Granny Smith apples. Fuji apples can be very sweet while granny smiths can be a little tart. Gravenstein apples are right in the middle. Many other types of apples are perfect for dehydrating. Some apples are better for applesauce or juicing than they are for dehydrating. Your goal is an excellent firm apple type that is not overly sweet and not too sour. Apples that are not so good for dehydrating are those with a grainy flesh – Yellow Delicious, red delicious, etc.
Dehydrating apples is a great way to use fruit that you grow or to take advantage of season fruits when their price is cheapest. Apples are generally a fall crop though some varieties may produce in mid-summer. Learning to dehydrate foods is one of the easiest ways to make the most of your garden while cutting down on your annual food costs.
David Stillwell is a lifelong naturalist with a background in healthcare and biology who lives in the heart of wildfire territory in Northern California. Prepping for him is a way of life and necessary on a daily basis. He focuses on food production and agriculture and grows 80% of what he consumes.